I thank the Ceann Comhairle for accepting this matter on the Adjournment. In November and December 2009, Skibbereen was hit by a series of floods which devastated the local community. The effect of these events was threefold. There was a major impact on the businesses of the town with some premises destroyed. It resulted in the closure of some long-established family businesses and it is estimated that it cost the town approximately €6 million. Insurance obviously then became an issue, and within the town some businesses and residential holdings are finding it impossible to get cover, which is having a significant impact. There is also the emotional toll. Confidence is low as there is a fear that with each heavy fall of rain or high tide we could again experience the events of last year. The local hospital was completely cut off. The COPE Foundation building was damaged and it is currently looking for other premises.
Since the flooding of last year the Minister of State, Deputy Martin Mansergh, has visited the town on more than one occasion. He has been more than willing to meet and reassure us that the OPW will not be found wanting when it comes to funding. The Minister of State is due to visit Skibbereen again this weekend to address the national flood forum, which is appropriate. There is no doubt that he is committed to providing funding that will address this situation. He has announced funding for Cork County Council to conduct a study that will identify the flood relief measures that will alleviate the flooding issues of Skibbereen. We realise that the new sewerage scheme has made this necessary. While this funding is welcome, my concern is about the amount of time this will take and what can be done in the interim.
To the people of Skibbereen it appears as if nothing has happened since the events of last year and no work has been done on any section of the River Ilen this year. This brings me to the main point of tonight's motion — that funding for minor flood relief works be provided immediately. I understand that Cork County Council has made an application for an early warning system. While I accept this is a necessary step, it will provide little relief to the people of Skibbereen because there is no work going on in the river.
While the study to identify the major works is vital, I am confident along with the people of Skibbereen that there are at least three physical improvements that could be carried out prior to the results of any survey as follows. There should be the selective removal of gravel, built up in the realigned channel between Kennedy Bridge, New Bridge and the Curragh Bridge. This is high priority and would cost approximately €100,000. Improvements should be made to culverts crossing Mardyke Road at an estimated cost of €10,000. Existing culverts across Townshend Street should be extended and a new inlet chamber and screens upstream of Townshend Street should be constructed which would cost an estimated €150,000. The total cost of these the works would come to €260,000, which is well within the figure announced by the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, for minor flood relief works.
I have spoken at length with members of Skibbereen flood committee who are confident these works would make a significant difference and go a long way to reducing the risk of flooding. It is reported that in a meeting between the OPW and Cork County Council it was stated that these measures would not be considered, but I urge the OPW to revisit this possibility.
Throughout Munster, towns are benefiting from minor flood relief to complete necessary work which is testament to the OPW's commitment to flood relief. I am asking for similar flood relief measures to be carried out in Skibbereen immediately. I am asking for the OPW to re-engage with Cork County Council and address the three issues I have outlined. I would like to know if the relief schemes in Munster are being fully funded by OPW and if it is true that for Skibbereen it is suggested that 90% funding should come from the OPW with the additional funding coming from Cork County Council. I want to know what is the status of the study that has been undertaken and if the three suggestions I have made will be given serious consideration. It is vital that the people of Skibbereen can at last be confident that their plight is being addressed.